When you think about composting at home, what is the first image that comes to mind? Most people probably picture a countertop compost bin stuffed with apple cores, banana peels, and other food scraps. Food waste is a huge problem, no doubt — it’s the largest component of U.S. landfills, accounting for more than 20 percent of the municipal waste we throw away. But if you’re already a pro at composting your food scraps, why not look beyond the kitchen in terms of what you can compost?
From natural loofahs to dryer lint, there are plenty of non-kitchen items you can compost. In fact, many eco-conscious families have compost buckets in multiple areas of their homes so they can collect as much organic material as possible. Here are a few ways you can follow their lead.
Scrub the tub with a natural loofah
Cleaning the bathtub is nobody’s idea of a fun activity, but you can at least make it more sustainable by scrubbing your tub with a natural loofah. Unlike traditional scouring pads that contain harmful ingredients (think detergents, chemical cleaning agents, and triclosan), natural loofahs are just that — natural.
In fact, a loofah is nothing more than dried fruit. Yes, you read that right the first time. Your favorite bathtub scrubber and exfoliator is actually a member of the gourd family. The best part is, natural loofahs can be composted at the end of their life. It comes full circle!
Choose your party supplies wisely
As much as we love a good party, there’s no denying that they can be a bit, well, wasteful. All that birthday party waste — the plastic cutlery, the disposable paper plates, the gift wrap — adds up fast, especially when you consider the fact that over 800 thousand people are celebrating their birthday on any given day in the United States.
Fortunately, many party supplies can be easily composted at home. Latex balloons, for example, are completely compostable as long as they are 100 percent latex. Simply let the air out of them and throw them in your compost pile.
Crepe paper streamers can also be composted and may even help your compost pile by soaking up excess water. Similarly, tissue wrapping paper and non-glossy wrapping paper are also good candidates for a compost pile.
Seek out low-waste beauty products
The beauty industry produces a gob-smacking amount of packaging waste (more than 120 billion units of packaging annually is a standard estimate), and things have only gotten worse with the rise of social media influencers. The good news? Many brands now offer a variety of low-waste personal care products that aim to make our beauty routines less wasteful.
Shampoo bars, for example, can be used until they’re gone and often come in compostable packaging. (They’re really easy to use, but here’s a quick guide on how to use a shampoo bar if you’ve never tried one before.) Likewise, many plastic-free deodorants now come in compostable tubes that you can toss in your compost heap. Every little bit helps!
Give dead houseplants a sustainable send-off
Even the most experienced plant parents have killed their fair share of houseplants. If you have a dying Peace Lily or a Pothos that’s giving up the ghost, consider throwing it on your compost pile.
As sad as it may be to watch your plant babies die, you can at least take comfort in the fact that, eventually, they’ll be part of the soil once again. Plus, you can use the finished product to feed your new houseplants and give them a boost of healthy nutrients.
Scatter wood ashes on your compost pile
Did you know that you can compost wood ashes? Indeed, wood ash contains several nutrients — potassium, calcium, and lime — that are beneficial for your garden. So, the next time you barbecue with hardwood charcoal or spend an evening curled up by the fire, consider putting those ashes to good use by scattering them over your compost pile.
There are a few caveats, however. First, you don’t want to overdo it with how many ashes you add to your compost pile. Wood ashes are very alkaline, which can slow down the composting process if your soil is already neutral or alkaline.
It’s also important to avoid using ash from treated or painted wood. These types of ash contain dangerous, toxic chemicals that aren’t good for plants or animals.
Compost in the bathroom
Aside from the kitchen, the bathroom is often one of the most wasteful areas of the home. Why not start a compost bin there? It doesn’t have to be as fancy as your kitchen countertop bin. A simple paper bag will work just as well and can be composted along with the contents of the bag.
Bathroom compost is a particularly great source of carbon (the “brown” component in your compost pile) and can be used to balance the nitrogen-rich contents of your kitchen compost bin. For example, toilet paper rolls used tissues, and bamboo toothbrushes (minus the bristles) can all be composted. You can also compost human hair and nail clippings.
Make laundry day more sustainable
Want to make laundry day a little more earth-friendly? Start composting the lint from your dryer. Just remember, this only works if you are washing clothes made from 100% natural fibers. Although dryer lint isn’t as beneficial for your garden as food scraps, it’s still a good source of carbon.
That’s far from the only thing you can compost in the laundry room. Wool cotton balls, for example, can be tossed in your compost pile at the end of their lifespan. (They last around 1,000 loads.) You can also switch to compostable dryer sheets, which are better for you and the planet since they’re free of harmful chemicals.
Composting Is Beneficial for Everyone
Whether you want to spoil your plants with nutrient-rich compost (aka, “black gold”) or are simply looking to cut down on household waste, there are lots of reasons to start composting at home. But if you’re limiting your composting efforts to the kitchen, you’re probably missing out on a treasure trove of compostable items. By setting your sights on the bathroom, the laundry room, and even the occasional birthday party, you can divert even more waste from a landfill.